The new French film After Love is aptly named. The film centers on a mid-to late 30s married couple – Marie and Boris – whose marriage has disintegrated. They are in the process of divorce and the separation is complicated by the presence of two young daughters.

With many married couples, when divorce has been decided upon one of the spouses usually moves out of the house. Boris remains in the home with Marie ostensibly for financial reasons. He lingers for so long that one is left to wonder if there is some ambivalence in ending the relationship on the part of both spouses. The affairs of the heart can be complicated, and about two thirds of the way through the movie there is a scene which does indicate that there is still mutual attraction between the two. There is some suspense as to whether the couple will actually break up, and the film is very comfortable with emotional ambiguity.

In the interim, there are the usual factors that have to be dealt with in a separation – division of assets, child visitation issues, in-laws, more complicated relationships with mutual acquaintances and friends, etc. Bérénice Bejo’s somewhat stony and stoic portrayal of Marie indicates that there is probably a lot more going on with the character than is being verbalized. Boris is experiencing some severe financial difficulties which further complicates the separation, and Cédric Kahn’s portrayal of the husband is suitably pressured and harried.

The inevitably dour proceedings are lightened by the two young children played by real life sisters Jade and Margaux Soentjens. Their buoyant and naturalistic acting provides some cheer amidst the tension.

There isn’t anything particularly earth shattering in the plot of After Love, but it is memorable for its relentlessly believable description of the disintegration of a marriage after the bloom of love has faded. Special effects are fun and have their place, but unabashed and un-exaggerated realism can be powerful, too.

Directed by Joachim Lafosse,  After Love is currently in limited release. It opens in San Francisco on August 25 and Los Angeles on September 1, with a national release to follow.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+